For four University of the Ozarks students, the nation's capital was their educational playground this past summer.
Kyle Eberhardt, David Estrada, Andres Acosta, and Badria Mryyan spent eight weeks during the summer of 2015 taking classes at George Mason University and serving various internships in Washington D.C. as part of The Fund For American Studies (TFAS) program. Founded in 1967, the non-profit TFAS has as its goal to "prepare young people for honorable leadership by educating them in the theory, practice and benefits of a free society."
Students (from left) Kyle Eberhardt, Badria Mryyan and Andres Acosta were three of the four Ozarks students who took part in summer internships and classes in Washington D.C. through The Fund for American Studies.
Eberhardt, a senior political science major from Franklin, Mass., served as an intern for The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, a non-profit organization dedicated to teaching entrepreneurial skills to students from underprivileged school districts. His duties included assisting in the summer Bizcamps, coordinating volunteer efforts, and assisting with donor records.
Eberhardt called the experience, "the most incredible thing I’ve ever done."
"I think the most important thing that I learned was the basics of doing the finances for the organization," Eberhard said. "After I graduate in May, I would like to work for an intelligence agency with the U.S. government. Having the opportunity to work in D.C. in a professional environment allowed me to expand my horizons as a student and see the many potential career opportunities down the road for me."
Estrada, a junior from radio/television/video major from Costa Rica, did his internship with the Institute on Political Journalism where he worked with the Spanish-language television network Telemundo. He assisted with the network’s daily news and feature coverage and, at the end of the internship, was awarded the institute’s prestigious Director’s Award for his contributions, attitude and work ethic.
"I was really quite shocked to get the Director’s Award," Estrada said. "The whole experience was life-changing for me. I got to improve my skills, knowledge and confidence in my profession and I also made some great connections and relationships that I hope to have for the rest of my life. To win the award was just an extra bonus that made it even more special."
Acosta, a senior management and economics major from Mansfield, Texas, served his internship with the trade association Sports and Fitness Internship Association in Silver Spring, Maryland. He said he was a "jack-of-all-trades" in various departments for the association.
Acosta, who plans to pursue a career in sports management when he graduates, said his summer experience was the perfect training for his career aspirations.
"I definitely learned way more about the sports and fitness industry than what I knew before," Acosta said. "I took the industry for granted thinking that it was just made up of Nike, adidas and Under Armour. However, that is not the case as we had over 600 member companies. This experience opened my eyes to potential career options upon graduation. Having this experience will benefit me because it is a unique opportunity that not a lot of students get the chance to experience. I was very blessed with this opportunity and I know that this will just help further my career path."
David Estrada, a junior RTV major, served his TFAS summer internship with the Spanish language broadcast television network Telemundo in Washington D.C.
Acosta had the chance to meet U.S. Sen. John McCain, attend Washington Nationals games, tour numerous monuments, and make a number of invaluable connections.
"One of the unique parts of the program is that they gave you a lot of things to do during your free time," Acosta said. "One of the aspects of the program that I felt was very enriching was the amount of time that was spent networking and making connections with big names in Washington, D.C. I feel like I made some connections that will serve me well in the future."
Mryyan, a junior political science major from Jonesboro, Ark., worked with the Institute on Philanthropy and Volunteer Service. She spent two months interning with the non-profit Council for Court Excellence (CCE), where he served as a development intern. She worked on CCE projects that involved social media, grant writing and research projects. She also assisted in the agency’s communications strategies and crowdfunding efforts.
"I learned a lot about the financial side of non-profits," Mryyan said. "In particular, I learned that non-profits are businesses too. They have budgets they operate off of and salaries that need to get paid. It isn’t just a bunch of ‘do-gooders’ running around the world doing what needs to be done, being paid in kindness. I also learned that I could see myself in D.C., living some sort of professional life. I realized that I enjoyed wearing blazers, meeting and hopefully helping people."
Mryyan, who serves as the Student Government Association president at Ozarks, said her experience made her rethink her professional aspirations.
"I worked with some really interesting people that encouraged me to not overlook certain career goals," she said. "I have considered being a lawyer, but it wasn’t until I worked with the CCE, where I met with lawyers who worked as policy analysts, that I realized that having a law degree doesn’t mean you have to work at some corporate firm or for the government. You have room to be creative with a Juris Doctorate. This experience reinforced my belief that there are so many jobs out there in the world and that it isn’t really the degree you get that opens doors for you but rather the experience and skill sets you have to offer to the workforce."
While working alongside college students from Ivy league colleges and other larger institutions, Mryyan said she quickly realized that she was as prepared as any of the other students for both the internship and the class work.
"I think the leadership qualities that I’ve gained through various clubs on campus kind of helped me to flourish in the business setting, as well as the interpersonal skills that go along with being a student," she said. "Also, my political science course load came in handy when I took an economics class through GMU. Initially, I remember being really worried about taking a class through that was being taught by a Georgetown professor. I honestly thought that maybe I wouldn’t do well and that maybe I wouldn’t score so well on the exams and op-eds. Surprisingly enough, I did really well in the course, and my background in critical thinking that I received at Ozarks definitely helped. It gave me the drive and understanding I needed to thrive in the academically competitive environment that I was thrust into."